Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Press Freedom Day today, with Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa applauding a female journalists training on investigative reporting, saying it will significantly contribute to the development of the area and address gender disparities in the media.
She made the remarks in a speech read on her behalf by her deputy Cde Kindness Paradza at the launch of a female journalists training project by the Centre for Public Interest Journalism last Friday in Harare.
Twenty female journalists from different media organisations are taking part in the training running for 12 months. The group is split into two.
Minister Mutsvangwa said the training would help participants to develop their careers by enhancing professional standards and address various challenges in the workplace as well as developing leadership skills to ascend in the newsroom and management structures.
“Beyond their personal development and contribution to the investigative journalism, their training will help communities and society in which they work by probing and covering issues of public interest, while also helping to improve performance of media companies where they work,” she said.
The training seeks to equip participants with in-depth reporting skills in investigative journalism focusing on areas such as child rights, child marriages, women issues, marginalised and vulnerable groups, climate change, environment natural resources extraction, social service delivery, economic issues, governance, accountability and corruption, among others.
The minister said enhanced understanding of investigative journalism and issues of public interest would enable participants to critically probe and cover complex societal matters and increase their capacity to take up leadership positions in the media.
“The programme will engage and empower young female journalists to help them train, sharpen and develop their investigative skills, tapping into talents and skills that the participants already have,” she said.
The country’s national gender policy places emphasis on gender equality and equity and Minister Mutsvangwa said the training initiative was important in ensuring equity between men and women in various institutions and facets of life.
In addition, the minister said addressing gender imbalances in the media could spur positive reform in other spheres of society in relation to patriarchy and unequal power relations between men and women.
“This project responds to these deep structural issues and problems in the media sector linked to similar problems across society, as well as identify gaps in training programmes, gender relations and participation in critical media areas between male and female journalists,” she said.
“The Zimbabwean media, like many other spheres of life in society, is overwhelmingly male-dominated despite that women are the majority in the country.”
Minister Mutsvangwa further noted the various studies by groups like Gender Connect, ZimFact, and Voluntary Media Council that have shown that even if women dominate classes in training institutions, the workspace has more men in top positions by far.
“As a result, the battle for gender equality in the newsrooms remains an important issue in Zimbabwe and around the world. This phenomenon is not peculiar to media, but a reflection of society in Zimbabwe and elsewhere,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed in 1993 by the UN General Assembly following a recommendation adopted at the 26th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991.
This year’s World Press Freedom Day theme is, “Information as a Public Good”, which serves as a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information as a public good, and exploring what can be done in the production, distribution and reception of content to strengthen journalism, and to advance transparency and empowerment while leaving no one behind.
For Zimbabwe, the day comes at a time the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa has repealed the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which was seen by critics as draconian.
The Freedom of Information Act, repealed AIPPA, and it gives effect to Section 62 of the Constitution which provides for the right to access to information as enshrined in the Declaration of Rights.
Many radio and television licences have been issued in line with the Government’s reform agenda.